State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2001

FAA airport safety meeting on Thursday

JUNEAU - The Federal Aviation Administration will host a runway safety meeting Thursday to discuss ways of avoiding close calls at Juneau Airport.

The FAA has documented two recent incidents at the airport that almost resulted in accidents, said the agency's Joette Storm. In one near miss, an Alaska Airlines jet had to swerve to avoid hitting a snowplow truck. Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board blamed the incident on a lack of communication.

The agency hopes to attract pilots, airport employees and other interested parties to the public meeting scheduled for 7 p.m., Aug. 23 at the airport's Aurora Room, said Storm. FAA Regional Administrator Patrick Poe will be on hand to answer questions, she said.

Former railroad executive pleads guilty

ANCHORAGE - A former executive of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad today entered a plea of guilty to one misdemeanor count in U.S. District Court in connection with a 1994 oil spill by the railroad near Skagway.

About 1,500 gallons of heating oil spilled into the Skagway River when a backhoe operator struck and ruptured a pipeline that ran alongside the railroad tracks.

Former company president Paul Taylor pleaded guilty to negligent discharge of oil and was sentenced to three years of probation and 480 hours of community service by Judge H. Russel Holland.

Holland said that he accepted the plea agreement but was not happy with it, particularly because Taylor would not do any prison time.

Taylor, 52, reached an agreement with federal prosecutors two days before jury selection was to begin for his third trial in the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charlie Brown said the government agreed to Taylor's plea because witnesses' recollection of events have faded in the seven years since the spill, making it difficult to assure a conviction. He also cited the expense of another trial.

Taylor had been convicted in 1996 of two felony counts of lying to government officials and was acquitted of seven other counts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his conviction last August, saying the judge had allowed inadmissible evidence.

A second trial in June ended in a mistrial when the jury deadlocked.

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